After a splendid and very full week in Rome, it was time for Therese and I to travel by train to Venice, for the last two weeks of our Italy vacation in October. The high speed train from Rome’s Termini train station, is about 3 and a half hours – so our train leaving Rome at 12:50pm arrived at Venice’s Santa Lucia station at 4:35pm.
It was just a short taxi ride to Termini station – we left early to give us time to have some lunch before getting on the train.
There was a sandwich counter upstairs (where I had the great view of the entrance hall above), a small place called, simply, Bar Mezzanino. We each had a sandwich and a soft drink, and it was only when we were leaving that I noticed that they sold vegan croissants! I have read several times that some pastry shops in Paris sell them, but I have never seen them – this was the first time I have seen anyone selling one!
The train ride went very smoothly – and I mean smoothly – this high-speed train reached speeds of about 150 mph, and it felt for the most part as if we were gliding on air. The train from Rome to Venice passes through some of Italy’s great tourist destinations – Bologna, Firenze (Florence), Ferrara and Padova (Padua). I snapped a photo of a gorgeous domed church in Bologna, but I am unable to figure out which one it is!
For snacks on the train, I had the awesome individual vegan sacher torte that I had bought the previous day in Rome, at Olive Dolci. And oh man, it tasted just as incredible as I imagined it – moist, rich chocolate flavor, nice chocolate ganache on the outside, tangy raspberry filling within.
Our AirBnB hostess, Elisa, met us at the train station. She had reserved a private water taxi to take us to our apartment. Now, before any of you start accusing us of being sissies for not wanting to lug our luggage over the cobblestones of Venice for the half-mile walk to our apartment, let me explain. First, yes, we are sissies – we are happy to do things the easy way whenever we can. Second, I had read many descriptions of travelers to Venice describing how covering the distance from the train station or Vaporetto/water bus to an apartment was usually living hell (btw, if you don’t know what a Vaporetto is, don’t worry, I will be talking more about them very soon…). So renting a water taxi was the right call for us.
The cool thing is that you walk out the front of the train station, and the water taxi stands are right there! So we rolled our luggage down to the dock, the taxi driver and Elisa stowed everything away, and we were invited to take our seats in the back of the taxi. And above is the first thing we saw when we started our trip down Venice’s Grand Canal. Wow!
Then the boat turned around and we began our journey. Right in front of us was the Ponte degli Scalzi, one of only four bridges that cross the Grand Canal. Already, Venice had that fairy tale look to me that made the whole experience of being there so magical!
Now, while our taxi journey may have begun on the wide open canal, most of it would be passing over the narrow side canals that make neighborhoods like Cannaregio so romantic. Sure enough, before long we had turned off the Grand Canal and into a smaller waterway called the Rio di Noale.
We got a certain point after a few minutes where it looked like we were heading to a dead end. What would we do now?
As we grew closer to the juncture ahead, it became clear that there was in fact a bridge ahead – but a rather low-hanging bridge. Would our boat be able to fit through this opening? We were soon to find out!
Whew! We just fit with a foot or two to spare!
We rode for another couple minutes down this narrow canal, and there came a point when there were 2 bridges ahead. Which way would we go now?
Of course, we took the bridge to the right – the lower one! Another close call – hold your breath!
Once we got through that opening, we were nearly there. We passed through this last narrow canal and got a good feeling of one of Venice’s other characteristics: the griminess. While there is a constant effort to keep the city clean, with it being so old, some things can’t help but look (a) covered in centuries’ worth of layers of grime and (b) ready to crumble at any minute.
We turned down one last narrow canal, and there ahead of us, looking so romantic and so perfect, was our house. Yes, it had a huge tree in the yard next to our entrance, and yes, just outside our entrance was one of those cool footbridges, with many steps (cool looking, but oh so hard on our knees and backs…).
Elisa helped us get our luggage up the stairs into our apartment, and showed us how everything (well, everything but the television) worked. She was very charming and helpful. She walked us through a book of rules and instructions and insights (it looked to us like this book is a work in progress). We learned that dealing with household trash and recycling in Venice is a big deal – if you don’t follow the rules, you can get fined. But hey, we wanted the experience of (sorta) living in Venice, didn’t we?
Anyway, so after a while Elisa concluded her presentation to us and we said our good-byes. She assured us that if we needed her, she lived on Lido Island and we could get her, but we never did need to have her come to the apartment, so that was the last we saw of her.
After traveling most of the day, we were tired, and thrilled to simply be in Venice. So rather than wanting to run right out and start sightseeing or something, we were content – actually much more than content, thrilled really – just to drink in the reality of being staying in a charming apartment in a quiet gorgeous neighborhood in Venice! Wow!
Eventually, we did start to feel a bit hungry, and so we went out for a walk to get some groceries. It took a little detective work, but we did manage to find the dark alleyway that leads to the supermarket in that area, Prix Discount. Seriously, it looks like an alley where someone would go and get murdered in a detective story, but that is where the supermarket is!
Prix Discount carried nearly everything we needed to keep ourselves going for our two weeks in Venice: some vegetables and fruit, lots of packaged and canned goods, things like coffee, meat and cheese. The one area that they lacked in was when it came to bread – they had bins for fresh bread that always seemed to be nearly empty, with their remaining contents being rock hard. After searching the cookie and cracker aisle, I found some individually wrapped multigrain rolls which were pretty good. That night, we had a simple fare of ham and bread and sundries, establishing our pattern for most of the two weeks in Venice: breakfast at home, lunch at restaurants out, dinner at home.
As humdrum as that dinner sounds I am sure, we were so thrilled to be in Venice and ready for an incredible time!